At Dogs Helping Heroes, every stage of the process — from obtaining our dogs to placement with a hero — involves a vast network of support. While our goal is to help wounded heroes, the assistance goes well beyond that.
We rescue dogs that were found abandoned or neglected, giving them a home and a purpose — basically a new lease on life. Inmates at local prisons undertake some of our dogs’ basic training, an arrangement that helps rehabilitate the prisoners by providing important job skills.
We match dogs with heroes based on the abilities of the dog and the needs of the hero. While all of our service dogs help their hero partners achieve independence and freedom, each of the dogs has particular talents and skills. Likewise, each hero has different needs. This is where the matching process comes in.
Matching Heroes With Dogs
Our injured heroes have a range of needs. Some need help with everyday tasks such as opening doors and turning on lights. Other heroes have mobility impairments and need assistance with balance and stability, sitting, standing and walking. Those who have suffered brain injuries or psychological impairments need the aid of a service dog that can offer comfort and help in mitigating or preventing anxiety and panic attacks, waking from nightmares or alerting someone to the hero’s seizures.
At Dogs Helping Heroes, we recognize the importance of placing the right dog with the right hero. As part of this process, we watch for the bond between our dog and our hero when the two are introduced. If everything appears to be going well, we undertake customized training to ensure that the dog can effectively perform all the specific tasks required by the hero. After the dog/hero team has worked together for a while, we reevaluate the partnership to confirm that the match is successful and to assess the need for additional training.
Dogs Helping Heroes utilizes several programs when training service dogs for disabled/wounded heroes. To ensure successful training, we select only dogs that have those characteristics we believe will make them good service dogs.
What Makes A Rescue Dog a Good Service Dog?
Dogs that show the potential to become service dogs exhibit the following traits:
- Intelligence / the ability to learn quickly
- Relaxed temperament
- Calm and confident personality
- Focused / not easily distracted
- Desire to please its master and work as a team member
- “Common sense” to know when an order should be disobeyed to keep its master safe
- Large enough to work as a guide and reach door handles and light switches
- Small enough to fit under tables and chairs
- Young and healthy enough to enjoy a long working life
Training Service Dogs for Heroes with Disabilities
Some dogs receive basic manners and obedience training by inmate trainers/handlers at prison facilities, while the more complex service training for our dogs is conducted by professional dog trainers. The partners with whom we are currently working are the following:
Kentucky State Reformatory Camp K-9
Chosen inmates at this prison facility are trained by professional handlers to provide basic obedience training to rescue dogs. During their tenure in Camp K-9, the dogs learn basic manners and to respond to commands. At the same time, the inmates learn job skills and importance of teamwork.
Duffy’s Dog Training Center
A premier canine training center in the Kentuckiana area supplements the training received at the prisons with intensive service dog training. This training takes approximately 30 days of training and focuses on manners and formal commands, as well as service tasks. Some dogs also receive basic obedience training at the center as the demand has increased. Tasks may include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Bracing/Stabilization Skills: Standing Balance – Assistance with Reclining/Rising – Regaining Posture after a Fall.
2. Mobilization Skills: Climbing Stairs – Assistance with Wheelchair – Carrying Items.
3. Active Contact Skills: Emotional Support – Disrupt Negative Behavior – Center Scattered Focus.
4. Retrieve/Tug Skills: Bringing Human Help – Opening Doors (Attached Strap).
5. Other Skills: Barking for Alarm or Assistance – Turning On/Off Lights.
Dogs Helping Heroes acquires dogs from local shelters and rescue groups. We are proud to have successful working relationships with Humane Society of Oldham County, Tier Haven, Shamrock Foundation, Harrison County, and Southern Indiana Animal Rescue. These organizations are skilled in recognizing the traits that make a rescue dog a good candidate for service work, and have generously donated some wonderful dogs to our cause.
Thank you for your interest in obtaining an assistant dog from Dogs Helping Heroes, Inc. (“DHH”). Among other things, DHH provides trained assistance dogs to Gold Star family members. DHH is not currently able to provide guide dogs to individuals who are legally blind or hearing impaired.
To apply for an assistance dog from DHH, eligible Gold Star Families should go to the application page.